Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Lillydale Lake parkrun

Lillydale Lake parkrun launched a few weeks ago, and I completely forgot to write up a review for it. The turn-out for their first official run was massive with over 100 parkrunners! Weather was great too - it was a bit overcast initially but there was no rain, so that helps to entice people to come along.

Lillydale Lake is near Lilydale's train station, and parkrun starts at the end of the northern end of the park - which is the end closest to the station (it's only 800m away). There's also plenty of parking available at that end due to the tennis courts and council offices. If you ride your bike in you'll need a chain lock as I didn't spot many places suited to a D-lock near the parkrun start/finish area. There are toilets at the park, perhaps another 500m south of the parkrun start/finish area.

The course is fairly straightfoward and consists of two anticlockwise laps of Lillydale Lake. The north end of the lake has two paths - you start on the outer (and lower) path, come around again on the inner path and then finish on the outer path. It's lovely and flat except for the hill at the start (which you barely notice, even when you come around again for the second lap), and another that is just before halfway (and also just before the end) that is steepish but very, very short.

Lillydale Lake parkrun -  graphic by Veloviewer.

Also, I have a new favourite way of presenting courses and routes - Veloviewer! The 3D images can now be directly shared to social media, and Ben (the creator) sorted out an issue with the privacy zones from Strava pretty quickly once it was pointed out to him. It uses Strava data, so you need to be on Strava to use Veloviewer. Check out the Veloviewer blog "About" page for more information and a great overview of the site.

Friday, May 9, 2014

Rain and running ruts

Ah, Melbourne in the seasons other than summer. There's a fair amount of rainy days, and so how often you get out on the bike or on a run becomes a bit more limited. Sometimes there's only an hour or so of good weather for outdoor activities - if it's not raining all day! Also... I'm bored of running. Again. I've switched back to using the Nike+ GPS sportswatch and the Nike+ website as their badges are cute, but that doesn't seem to have been enough to get my out of my little running rut. I need to start running to get the badges! Aside from parkrun, I don't really run at all these days!

So doing the Great Train Race (Puffing Billy) on Sunday was a bit more painful than I would have liked but I did enjoy it. Well, aside from my left hip.

It was the hills that killed me (specifically, the second one). While the total amount of climbing was almost twice as much at the SMH Half Marathon, the hills in that course were generally short and steep or a bit longer and less steep. Whereas at the Great Train Race, we had three proper climbs:
  • the first hill was 1.3km into the run, 1.4km long and 62m high (average grade of 4%)
  • the longest hill kicked in at the 5km mark - it was 2km long and 107m high (average grade of 5%) 
  • the last significant climb started at the 8.9km mark and was both the shortest in distance and the shortest in heigh. Except that being "only" 600m long and "only" 48m high resulted in the average grade to be 8%.
I had completed a recon ride of the course and while it meant that I knew exactly where I was located at any particular time in the run, it had not prepared me for how much hill climbing was involved. Part of the problem is that I don't have any hills nearby to train on! Also, I think semi-regular visits to the gym when I was preparing for the half marathon meant I had stronger legs (and I lived near Coogee, where running to Bondi and back meant quite a bit of stairs and short climbs). That's why I could do the half-marathon at 5:30 min/km but struggled at over 6:00 min/km with the Great Train Race. Anyway, it was a beautiful course and a lot of fun - despite this, I'm about 100% sure that the event hasn't inspired me to keep up the running. I'm really not keen on it at all. I think I could manage a couple of 5km runs during the week, along with parkrun, but nothing longer at the moment - it just doesn't interest me right now! 

So what does interest me? Well, I still like cycling, although I'm now finding I'm a little "stuck" between two levels. Although that whole discussion doesn't really help me out with my running rut.

I have always loved the idea of being good at pull-ups.

In case it's not clear, I'm not any good at them. I did do them regularly on the assisted pull-up/chin-up/dip machine in the gym (back when I had a gym membership), but I used a lot of counter-weight! I spent some time this week figuring out how I could get back on my "Let's complete pull-ups!" bandwagon without a gym membership. First, I scoured the internet and decided that this progression would work - no gym equipment required and the website's run by a female. Girl power, etc.

Now my upper body strength is not completely lacking, so I think I can skip the sandbag rows of the first step as I need to source appropriate weighted objects to lift. So onto Step Two: reverse pushups. I scouted out local playgrounds that were suitable for progressing to completing pull-ups this week via Playground Finder and Melbourne Playgrounds (the only fitness stations in the area that I know of are just under 5km away, and running 10km to work on pull-ups seemed like a lot further than I would have liked), and visited a few on my way back from my bike rides. Ideally I wanted a location just under 2.5km away - that way I'd get a 5km run and the pull-up work and it shouldn't take me more than 45 minutes altogether. I think I found the ideal spot - it's probably my 6th- or 7th-closest playground, but still less than 1.5km away. Playgrounds are not in short supply in the City of Whitehorse, but playgrounds for my purposes are.

Look! A low bar with enough clearance to get under! And they're not in the shot, but the structure just behind on the left is a set of monkey bars that I could eventually do pull-ups on!

Coincidentally, Wendy from parkrun is also working on being able to do a pull-up. From our chat the other weekend it sounds like we're at the same level - the reverse push-up. Although I also suck at proper push-ups. A bit like the pull-ups, I can do them in an assisted form (the kneeling style). My wrists pose a bit of a problem with push-ups, and I have overdone my wrists in the past, so I'm now using an app to moderate my attempts to build my push-up strength. I've just started using this Push Ups app, so we'll see how it all goes.

Friday, May 2, 2014

Cycling woes

So I've been regularly riding with a Breeze group since October/November (I call my September ride a false start). Until recently, the pace (about 22-24 km/h) has been sufficient for me to ride in harder gears to work on strength, lower gears to work on cadence, or to just to take it easy. But all I can work on these days is cadence as the pace can be slow, unless we have a large turnout and can split into fast and slow groups (in which case I get to work on my fitness as I still struggle to work hard on the slightly-downhill Doncaster Rd and still get up Belmore Rd at a good pace).

How slow is slow? Well, the past couple of weeks has been slower than I'd like (less than 20km/h), but the Breeze program exists for beginners and we just hadn't had many regular newbies until now. I'm not imaging it either - Strava supports how I've been feeling!

I set a PB on a solo ride through this 16km Strava segment, 7 days later I'm 14 minutes slower as the latest beginners have joined us. I don't think I complain about the pace at all during the ride - the ride exists for newbies, and I will ride with them if the numbers are low. So now I'm going to try to leave home 15 minutes earlier than I normally would so that I can meet the Breeze group at the second meeting point (about 15-20 minutes into the ride) and get a good hit-out in before joining the Breeze ladies. While the plan didn't quite work out on Thursday as I lost time finding my keycard (I needed money for post-ride coffee), I did get a good 20 minutes in before coming across the group near the first meeting point. I suppose it doesn't help when they don't quite start on time.

The added bonus of getting into the habit of leaving at 5:15am is that this would be the same departure time if I wanted to make the Rapha Women ride that regularly rides at about 25 km/h, but starts from North Melbourne at 6:00am. It ends up being a ~60km ride for me, so it's something to build towards. I can manage the distance easily enough when I do a long Sunday ride, it's just whether I can do the longer mid-week ride in addition to the Sunday ride. Yes, I overthink things and am probably fine. But I definitely need the 5:15am practice before committing to a ride that take more time to get to!

There is another local option, the Maling Room Ride (MRR), which I have joined on occasion - I'm just not sure if I can commit to riding that loop at 27km/h regularly! Especially since there is sometimes judgement thrown my way as I ride a flat-bar (my flat-bar gets me through most women's rides easily enough, including the monthly Peak Cycles ride which averages 25km/h and has a few short climbs). I'd also miss coffee chatter with women, as there's only a handful of ladies on the MRR, but spread across different pace groups (the 27km/h group is one of the slowest, occasionally there's a slower group but it's not always there).

As an example of the difference between groups and pace-groups, the Breeze and MRR have an 11km section that overlaps:

  • my PB of 23:20 (29km/h) was with the MRR "Mice"
  • my second best time was with the slower MRR "Cheese" (24:39, 27.5km/h)
  • my third best time was my fastest solo ride (25:17, 26.8 km/h)
  • the fastest Breeze ride was 26:43 (25.4 km/h, which isn't too bad at all)
  • the slow April 17th Breeze ride was 34:08 (19.8km/h). 
I think a 10 minute difference over 11km for a 20km loop is quite a bit! It means that I'm not getting as much out of my time - and I wake up early for this!